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The Super Bowl ad is the last relic of a departed era

But also the bridge to a new one.

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The Super Bowl has always stood alone as the greatest opportunity in traditional advertising. Despite digital’s steady march to supremacy over traditional advertising, the Super Bowl is as good a value for advertisers as it ever was. There is also a great chance that the Super Bowl could be a trailblazer that takes TV advertising all the way to the Promised Land.

Despite trends that indicate the end of TV commercial dominance (digital is forecasted to overtake TV advertising in 2016, and 62 percent of U.S. TV homes subscribing to a pay TV service have a DVR, allowing them to skip commercials altogether), the Super Bowl remains the "be-all and end-all" of brand advertising, largely because of its incredible reach.

More and more people watch the Super Bowl live every year, and those who are DVRing it often do so just to catch the commercials. Dish DVR rolled out a Reverse AutoHop last year for the Super Bowl so you could skip the game and just watch the commercials. Even people who don’t care for sports year-round tune into the Super Bowl just for the commercials.

In a world where people often do their best to tune out ads, the Super Bowl stands alone as a unique opportunity to reach consumers when they’re receptive and even deeply engaged.

In a world where people often do their best to tune out ads, the Super Bowl stands alone as a unique opportunity to reach consumers when they’re receptive and even deeply engaged.

Smart advertisers know this, and even the relatively little guys are making plays for Super Bowl advertising because it’s so resoundingly worth it. During a Super Bowl, there are from 60 to 70 TV ads. Last year, most of the ads were from the usual suspects such as massive entrenched brands like Budweiser, Coca-Cola and Toyota, but there were also a handful of lesser-known retail brands like Wix.com (DIY websites), Loctite (glue), Mophie (iPhone accessories) and even mobile gaming companies that paid big bucks for 30 seconds in front of well over a hundred million people. No doubt at least some of these directed a high percentage of their quarterly (if not annual!) budgets on these less trackable ads.

But it’s not just the size and attentiveness of the Super Bowl audience that makes the investment so worth it — it’s that the Super Bowl is essentially a high-profile testing ground for advertising’s early adopters. Brand ads at the Super Bowl give us a sense of the future of TV, where apps, events, brand advertising and direct response will all merge.

Brands can already run simultaneous campaigns on TV and digital — about half of Super Bowl viewers are on their phones, according to an eMarketer/Harris Poll — and meet potential users on multiple devices while they watch the game. You could argue that technological advances alone that allow for hybrid brand/direct response advertising make it better than it’s ever been.

Take that a step further: Apple believes apps are the future of TV, and I happen to agree. Three of the ads in last year’s Super Bowl were for gaming apps (MachineZone, uCool and Supercell). It won’t be long before those ads will have live download links, right to consumers’ connected TVs.

Imagine the possibilities for optimizing advertising in that environment. In some ways, TV has been the holy grail in terms of tracking and attribution, but with the new Apple TV, it’s no longer a myth: It offers all the potential of performance marketing that we’ve come to cherish elsewhere.

It’s not just the size and attentiveness of the Super Bowl audience that makes the investment so worth it — it’s that the Super Bowl is essentially a high-profile testing ground for advertising’s early adopters.

Then consider that traditional broadcast television itself is in transition, again with the NFL possibly paving the way for live events. Yahoo streamed an NFL game this year. Last year, Adobe reported that 37 percent of TV Everywhere content streams were for sporting events, and sports video streams were up 640 percent year-over-year. It seems inevitable that NFL games (and all other forms of live entertainment) will soon be primarily delivered via Internet to your TV, smartphone, tablet or any other screen you own.

The walls are coming down, and before long, brand advertising and personalized direct-response advertising will be one and the same.

We’re not quite there yet, so advertising on TV can feel like a relic of the past to some, given the ubiquity of DVRs and streaming services. However, the Super Bowl is the exception to the rule, and it will likely pave the way for whole new ways to reach consumers, gather data and iterate.


Adam Foroughi is co-founder and CEO of AppLovin, a marketing platform that provides marketing automation and analytics for brands that want to reach their consumers on mobile. The platform enables brands to use real-time data signals to make effective marketing decisions across more than one billion mobile consumers worldwide. AppLovin works with top brands in retail, travel, lifestyle, gaming and more. Reach him @AppLovin.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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